Puerto Vallarta, Mexico - Monday, October 9, was a landmark evolutionary day for America. South Dakota celebrated "Native American Day," followed by the big-hearted cities of Los Angeles, Seattle, Denver, Phoenix, Minneapolis, and Austin, Texas.
Our Native American Olympic Team Foundation (NAOTF) salutes these enlightened cities, as well as the states of Minnesota, Alaska and my home state of Vermont for also celebrating Indigenous Peoples' Day, October 9, to replace Columbus Day.
In 1994, the United Nations had declared August 9th International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples. But those states and cities took it a step further by replacing Columbus Day entirely.
Plus a lawmaker in Washington DC has put forward a bill to replace Columbus Day with an Indigenous holiday. HERE are some of the states and cities celebrating.
This is awesome news to so many Americans along with giving humanity hope. Our foundation had thought that given the lingering demonization of Native Americans by the Church and continued by governments, that Columbus day may never change. So we thought it would be even better to make amends.
So, over the last 22 years, we helped enlighten ski areas across the U.S. and Canada to invite over 10,000 tribal youth to share the joy of skiing or boarding in their (stolen) ancestral lands, which has lifted their health and spirit and helped create an Olympian, a National Nastar champion like Lakota Delany Tyon, and Harvard Med School Intern like Mariah Cooper (Lac Courte Oreilles-Oneida).
While an injury got in the way of his Olympic or NBA birth, he said playing in Europe where thousands of fans dressed in buckskins to cheer him on, getting his MBA and now helping other youth at his coolest Indian training center in Arizona's Shiprock get to soar with eagles, made his life. So in appreciation he gave me a beautiful star quilt and turquoise necklace. Then Kiki, whose Blackfeet mom was Miss America, loved my idea of their hosting splendid Native American half time shows for several years, perhaps contributed to Denver celebrating Native American Day!
We skiers can be proud that we also contributed to this healing of America like Mandela did in South Africa thru sports. In 1992, an avid skier turned Saint, John Paul II, who hung out on the tops of mountains where you can hear God better, invited the Aztecs to dance at the Vatican. Then in 2000, he apologized to Native American and indigenous of the Americas for their "pain and suffering" during the 500 years of the church's presence here, when he was in the Dominican Republic.
Columbus on landing in the Americas in 1492, wrote to Spain's Queen Isabella that he found the peaceful Arawaks who welcomed them with garlands of flowers "sweet, happy, blessed," why he called them "Indios," meaning "People of God." (See: Columbus and Los Indios as 'God's People' - LA Times)
Unfortunately, soon after seeing a gold earring, Columbus and the padres realized gold could pay for more trips by Spain's Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand, and make them great wealth and power, so they changed their tune. They then called these highly spiritual people who believe in one Creator and respect for Mother Earth as our giver of Life, "soulless savages" to rationalize enslaving them to work in mines where over a million American Indians perished. Then, together with Cortes' genocide in Mexico, settlers reduced the population from about 50 million to a few million.
That is why Spain's Queen Sofia (means wisdom) pioneered the Healing of Native America in the 1990s with her apology to Native Americans via a touring dance group.
Pope Francis then followed: "I apologize for the sins, offenses and crimes committed by the Catholic Church against indigenous peoples during the colonial-era conquest of the Americas, as well as for the ongoing discrimination and injustice you have long suffered." (See: Pope Francis asks pardon for church's 'crimes' against indigenous peoples - cbc.ca)
Understanding that he needed to do more to heal, in 2016 he made an "Apology Tour of the Americas," where, with the world watching, he told the Indigenous:
"Some continue to consider your values, cultures, and traditions inferior. Others, dizzy with power, money, and the laws of the market, have stripped you of your lands and then contaminated them. How well we would all do, to do some soul searching and learn to say sorry." After a long pause, the Pope then said, "Sorry brothers." Many wept. And he urged to others to make amends.
Pope Francis Praises Indigenous Wisdom
Realizing the contributions of President Morales, Iroquois Faithkeeper Oren Lyons who inspired the King of Sweden to shift from nuclear to renewables, and educating the U.N. with Lakota Chief Arvol Lookinghorse and the Hopi, Pope Francis also humbly praised the millions of Indigenous at mixed masses across the Americas, for basically lighting the way back to a sustainable planet:
"We can no longer pretend to be deaf in the face of one of the greatest environmental crises in history. In this you have much to teach mankind. You know how to maintain a harmonious relationship with nature, and respect it as a source of food, a common home, and an altar for how to share resources among people. I urge the world to learn from your wisdom in this global environmental crisis."
Since action speaks louder than words, he also stood up for the Human Rights to Health of the Great Plains Tribes to stop the Standing Rock pipeline.
Mother Earth is screaming to wake us up to heal Her and Her Guardians. So thank you to these pioneering states, cities, the skiers and the Pope for lighting the way to healing America at this pivotal moment. We also thank the late Ronald Reagan for brilliantly starting "Native American Day" as Governor of California. When asked why he didn't go to church regularly, he said what tribes and many of us say, "Nature is my Cathedral." You will see how grateful our Earth Mother is. All seven friends and family members in the Texas, Florida and Baja hurricanes who were also healing Mother Earth or Her tribal guardians, were blessedly untouched by these storms, while others surrounding them weren't! So join Her Healing Team! Contact NAOTF.org or Snow-Riders.org for assistance, or to help us make this healing happen.
Suzy Chaffee, a former Olympic skier who helped invent dancing down mountains, has turned activist, journalist, filmmaker, and has worked with seven U.S. Presidents. She is now co-chairman of a non-profit partnership of the Elders of the Americas and Olympians, called the Native American Olympic Team Foundation, which aims to heal Mother Earth for all our children through joyful sports and education. For more information, contact Suzy at SuzyNativeVoices(at)aol.com, or visit Snow-Riders.org or NAOTF.org.Opinions are those of the author and may not reflect the opinion or policy of this site or its publisher. Content has not been edited beyond simple typo checks in order to retain the authorís unique voice.